St Mary's Church, Beverley

making disciples

‘Medieval Curious Carvings’: Preserved and Interpreted


St Mary’s Church wins National Lottery Support

St. Mary’s Church, Beverley, has received initial support* from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Medieval Curious Carvings project, it was announced today. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to repair and conserve a vulnerable area of the church in which a number of ‘curious carvings’ are housed within the ceiling. These 14th century Bosses are unique and this project will endeavour to make this beautiful heritage accessible for all to learn about and enjoy.


Development funding of £38,600 has also been awarded to help St Mary’s progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

The project aims to carry out essential conservation work to repair the stonework and prevent water damage to the ceilings, digitally record the extraordinary carved bosses and develop a wide range of creative activities and events allowing on-line public access to the collection for the first time. An educational programme is also planned for adults and children which we hope to start to roll out in 2019. Volunteers will be given training so they can learn new skills, support the activities and help visitors engage with the church’s wonderful art and history.

St Mary’s is widely regarded as a national treasure of architecture and heritage and is home to Lewis Carol’s White Rabbit as well as having extraordinary carved and painted ceilings. It is also the focal point of much community activity in Beverley and attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world every year.

The Rev’d Becky Lumley said:

“We are thrilled to have received this support from National Lottery players, and are confident that as the project begins people will be delighted to see urgent repairs on the building take place. We are looking forward to developing our educational opportunities and our very valuable volunteering opportunities during this project”

“St Mary’s still needs to raise significant sums of money to repair crumbling stonework … but, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, this will hopefully be just the beginning.”



St Mary’s Church has long been acknowledged to be one of the finest examples of a late medieval church in England. Its beauty and artistry mark it out as one of the great parish churches of England and a masterpiece of Gothic art. The lightness of the building alongside the extraordinary and detailed and intricate carving combined with the vivid colours of the painted ceilings make St Mary’s Church a joy to visit.

St Mary’s is perhaps best known for its beautifully painted ceiling depicting not only a map of the heavens above but also the Kings of England dating from 1445. The artistry and colour of these painted ceilings including the 625 painted bosses continue to delight visitors and tourists alike. Almost equally well known are the carved pillars. One of the most famous of these is The Minstrel Pillar, one of fully 34 musical themed carvings in the church. The Minstrel Pillar shows five carved and richly painted figures of musicians standing atop the column capital. Another famous carving is found at the entrance to St Michael’s Chapel, where one of the pillars is decorated with a wonderful carving of a rabbit dressed as a pilgrim. The rabbit carving dates to about 1330 and is thought to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll‘s White Rabbit in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. The choir stalls date to 1445 and feature 28 beautifully carved misericords. These include one of a Green Man, another of a fox representing a friar and another depicting an elephant. There is also a scene of bear baiting, a boar hunt, and a wild man each depicting a story of medieval life.

Throughout the building, the stonework tells extraordinary tales of lives gone by from the intricacies of the mason’s marks to the memorial to a pair of Danish soldiers which tells the tragic tale murder and revenge of the Danish Soldiers brought to England by William of Orange.

St Mary’s is an extraordinary church which hosts a lively and vibrant community.


About the Heritage Lottery Fund
* HLF Heritage Grant applications are assessed in two rounds. St Mary’s ‘Curious Carvings’ project has initially been granted round one development funding of £38,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £421,400.


Beverley, 13 February 2018

This follows a pervious very successful project : The Beaver

Thanks to a Heritage Lottery Grant a dangerous high-level pinnacle on the northwest side of church was made safe. The grant of £82,100 also allowed us the chance to learn more about stonemasonry and enabled us to welcome a wonderful new stone creature to our collection.

Repairing the Pinnacle
Wednesday 19th July 2017 the pinnacle was brought down and the process of studying the original pinnacle, modelling the new (based on the old) and carving took place

The Beaver
In order to keep the pinnacle secure, a new grotesque / gargoyle was needed to replace the one which had eroded. The stonemason designed a wonderful beaver, reflecting Beverley’s logo and symbolizing the beginning of new works. He is playing a harp in line with the tradition of musical carvings in the building and echoing the sound of running water (Beverley beck)

The pinnacle and the beaver were fixed to church in October 2017 and now the beaver looks proudly down over passers by.

Learning about St Mary’s Church
During October 2017 Matthias (the lovely stonemason) and his team agreed to come into church to run 4 sessions introducing the children to the profession of stonemasonry. We welcomed 120 children from the local primary school who learned a little more about this extraordinary work including:
• Exploring the church and trying to understand the themes and designs in the building
• Sketching a design for their own gargoyles / grotesques
• Moulding the design in self-drying clay
• Having an opportunity to use the stonemason’s tools

If you want to find out more about how St Mary’s was built there is a permanent display of interactive resources…. come and see for yourself


About rolanddeller

Director of Development at St Mary's Church Beverley.


This entry was posted on September 25, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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